KILKENNY will have all their big guns in action when they attempt to blast Wexford into oblivion in the Leinster under-21 hurling championship semi-final this evening (Wednesday).
The Cats have the Slaneysiders as guests in Nowlan Park (7.30pm), and four players who could be part of Brian Cody’s senior panel on Saturday in Portlaois will backbone the side as they seek revenge for a defeat in Wexford Park 12 months ago.
Two of the finds of the season, Cillian Buckley and Richie Doyle, along with star attacker Padraig Walsh and powerfully build defender, Willie Phelan, have been freed to play by the senior selectors only three days before another massive championship engagement against Dublin in Portlaois.
Good and strong
“We will need everyone, and we will need to be at our best too if we are to win,” insisted Kilkenny under-21 manager, Richie Mulrooney.
“Wexford have a good, strong team as they showed when they ran up 1-19 against Offaly in the last round. They have a lot of very good hurlers.”
Kilkenny had sought a change of date and to have the match put back a week because of the closeness of the Dublin game, but Wexford weren’t able to accommodate them because they have a strong sprinkling of seniors involved with the under-age side.
The Noresiders will be monitoring the situation of Cillian Buckley in particular. He has been nursing a hamstring injury of late, and while he has made progress, he suffered some discomfort with the injury last week.
Whether or not the injury will stand up to two testing championship matches in three days is the question, but Buckley, who can play in defence, midfield or attack, is needed by both teams.
“This is a very, very tough challenge for us,” Mr Mulrooney added. “We will have to hit the ground running. Wexford have the benefit of the match against Offaly, which helped them iron out any problems they might have found.”
The Cats have been further boosted by the return to the panel of John Power, brother of Richie, Kevin Kelly, Richie Reid and Eoin McGrath, who were all forced to take a step back and shape their training around Leaving Certificate exams.
“The co-operation and support we received from the senior selectors has been terrific,” Mr Mulrooney said. “They couldn’t have been better to us. A number of our players have been training with the seniors, and the exposure to hurling at that level can only be good for them.”
Wexford beat Kilkenny in this competition last season. They contested the last two provincial finals, but lost them both to Dublin.
“Home advantage won’t make a lot of difference if we don’t perform,” Mr Mulrooney continued. “The appetite and attitude among the players has been great and I would be hopeful that if we play to form we won’t be too far off the mark.”
This group of Kilkenny players contested the All-Ireland minor final of in 2009, but they were bettered by Galway in the Croke Park showdown.
Kilkenny (under-21 H v Wexford) Dylan Walsh (Thomastown); Jason Corcoran (John Lockes), Willie Phelan (Dunnamaggin), Joe Lyng (Rower-Inistioge); Luke Harney (Kilmacow), Richie Doyle (Barrow Rangers), Brian Kennedy (St Lachtain’s); Geoff Brennan (St Patrick’s), Ollie Walsh (Dicksboro); Cathal Kenny (Barrow Rangers), Padraig Walsh (Tullaroan), Cillian Buckley (Dicksboro); Ger Aylward (Glenmore), Walter Walsh (Tullogher-Rosbercon), Kevin Kelly, capt (St Patrick’s).
Subs – Richie Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Pat O’Carroll (Lisdowney), Owen McGrath (John Lockes), Ian Duggan (Mullinavat), James Gannon (St Patrick’s), Sean Kehoe (Young Irelands), Paul Buggy (Tullaroan), James Cassin (Rower-Inistioge), Michael Brennan (St Patrick’s), John Power (Carrickshock), Martin Gaffney (Dicksboro), Sean Phelan (Lisdowney), Stephen Staunton (St Patrick’s), Conor Tobin (Fenians), Johnny Hayes (Kilmacow), David Glynn (Dicksboro), Paddy Butler (O’Loughlin’s), Danny Kenny (Dicksboro), Canice Maher (St Martin’s).